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Routines vs. Schedules- Simplified

Posted by on June 6, 2012

As we settle into our new home it has become painfully obvious that we need to establish more of a routine for our family. Ella, at age 4, is craving more predictability in her day. And my husband and I need a better routine so we can get more accomplished. We have always loved our flexible schedules, but without a regular routine we are having a hard time prioritizing our day.  

Irene Gouge, Sleep Consultant for Loving Lessons, offered her help and wrote this guest blog post about creating routines. I know it will be useful to us and hope that you will also find it helpful. When you travel, having a good routine in place will help your child feel more comfortable and will  adapt more easily to the other changes in their day.

Routines vs. Schedules- Simplified

by Irene Gouge

Everyone needs a routine! But why? Children from birth all the way into adult years, moms and dads alike need routines! It keeps life in order, allows predictability, and is one of the many social cues that lets our brain know what to do or how to respond. Children need routines to feel safe and secure and to have predictability in their day. Children thrive on routine. It’s just a matter of creating these simple routines and making them a natural part in the rhythm of your day.

Adults need schedules. There needs to be a time keeper that helps keep routines in place. Some people hear schedules and think- “must be rigid and timely”. Sometimes yes, but most of the time flexibility is important, especially when dealing with young children. Depending on your child’s age, feeding and sleeping can vary by 15 minutes or so.

This is what a natural rhythm looks like in my home with my 5 and 3 year old. You’ll notice that the bold and colored items are the routine that my children depend on everyday to know what time it is and know what will take place. It may sound crazy, but it’s true, and Connor has always been my high needs and sensitive child, so I have had to adjust my parenting to match his needs. You might be wondering- what does play look like? Each day is different. Some days its puzzles, blocks, reading, going to the park, errands, grocery shopping, the pool, library, or whatever the day may bring. You can add and modify your day and schedule- and we can be quite active, but no matter what we do- we need to include these bold items in our day to have success and adaptability with our children.

  • Wake time is 6:40 when the green light is on!
  • Snuggle and cuddle time with a little show.
  • Get dressed and ready for the day
  • Breakfast 8:00
  • Play
  • Snack 10:00
  • Play
  • Lunch 12:00
  • Nap/Quiet time 12:30
  • Quiet play
  • Snack 3:30
  • Play
  • Dinner 5:30
  • Play
  • Bedtime Routine 6:30
  • Sleep time 7:30

Am I rigid about my times? No, but I certainly don’t try to push the limits since I know my children’s bodies are ready to take in nutrients or rest around certain times and I want to work with their natural body clock to avoid meltdowns. Many parents worry that it can be restraining. However I find it quite the opposite and get more comfort in the routine and it makes it easier to plan my day, to plan snacks or meals to go. It’s just a small shift in our thinking and it becomes super easy way to enjoy the moments with our children.

Are you getting ready to get routines in place in your home? Here are a few key questions to think about as you create your plan:

  • Wake up routine– How do your kids know it is the start of a new day? What do you do to connect after a night of 9-11 hours of sleep?
  • Transitions routine– How do you connect with your child before you change gears? What are the expectations and how do you transition smoothly to end one activity and start a new one?
  • Mealtime routines– How is everyone contributing to the meal? What is the expected behavior before, during and after the meal?
  • Bedtime routines– How do you wind down and end your day? What does the process look like in your home?
    • Typical bedtime routines include- bath and PJ’s, brush teeth, potty, read books, snuggle and cuddle, lights out- time to sleep-leave the room with our child awake!

This is an example of a bedtime and morning routine check list that I use with my boys. You can use a clothes pin to help check off completed items. Of course you can create your own, take pictures of your child doing the steps to the routine to make it more fun and personal.



It can seem overwhelming or tedious to have to come up with these natural routines children need, but it’s well worth it. Sometimes as adults we forget that our little ones need a step by step plan to feel success in what they are doing. Establishing these routines eases you into your day, eliminates power struggles, and helps you end on a connected and calm way. Think of the routines as positive habits to create success all day!

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For more useful tips by Irene Gouge, find Loving Lessons on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for email newsletters on her website.

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